Last summer, I embarked on an ancestral journey through archival records, family interviews, photographs and old books that documented members of my family. The 20th century emigrations in my family from both Italy and Poland were much more difficult to trace because of the lack of public records in both of those countries and the disorganization once they were processed in the United States. It was also very difficult to trace the slightly earlier pilgrimages from Scotland and France due to the commonness of the names Gilpatrick and Goudreau, but my family's emigration from England was well documented in Maine's historical records.
Using a combination of ancestry.com, family websites (I am distantly related to so many people), military records for my Crockett and Strout ancestors given to be my great aunt, Jean Gilpatrick, and a book that she was given concerning schooner owners on Chebeague Island, I was able to trace my English roots to the mid 16th century. I started with my third great-grandfather, Isaac Everett Strout, who built a church on the aforementioned island that still stands today. My dad and I explored it a few years ago and found our way into its attic where thousands of ladybugs had found a home.
From there, I was able to find his roots in Truro, Massachusetts and from there I found James B. Strowthe born in Cornwall, England in 1582. His son, Anthony and his daughter in-law Mary Olyver had a son named Christopher who is cited as the first Maine Strout to appear in the New World. He was born in a province of Cornwall called Egloshayle and died in Truro in 1715. When Isaac married Ella May Crockett, whose family was originally from Devonshire, the two English halves of my family were brought together. As a result of my Cornish roots, I decided to make a classic English dinner called Cornish Pasties also known as Oggies, since that is Cornish (a Celtic language in Cornwall still spoken by a few hundred people today) for pasty.
My motivation for making these ancient pies was informed partly by my quest for my historical roots and partly by my intense hunger after teaching skating to little weebeasties for 4 hours on Saturday. I found the recipe in my "Tea and Sympathy" cookbook, which called for suet in my dough. I however, did not read the entire recipe through and after adding the improvised suet (I used duck fat), I realized that I was going to need to steam the dough for nearly 3 hours, which simply put, was not going to happen.
So instead of my trusty recipe I scoured the internet for viable alternatives and found one that I liked from the food network's website. This did not call for steaming and suggested using lard instead of suet. I modified the recipe and added twoish ounces of butter and twoish ounces of duck fat. But before I get ahead of myself as Maria von Trapp would say, "Let's start at the very beginning, that's a very good place to start, when you read you begin with ABC's when you sing you begin with do-re-mi," when you make cornish pasties you begin with 2 1/4 cups of flour, 2 tsp confectioner's sugar and 1 tsp salt.
Add 3 ounces of cold butter and the combo I told you about earlier (2 ounces of butter and 2 ounces of duck fat or lard). You can also use vegetarian shortening like Crisco. Mix this together and then add a one egg yolk and 6 tbs of cold water whisked together. Knead this all together into a ball and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or more. In the mean time in between time, you should make your filling. I used Tea and Sympathy's filling, which called for 2 lbs of ground lamb although I recommend 1, since I had a lot of leftover, 2 onions peeled and diced, 2 small carrots peeled and diced, some herbs of your choice (I used basil and thyme), and two peeled and diced potatoes. I sautéed the onions in olive oil and then added the lamb, carrots, herbs and two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce. I boiled the potatoes until they were tender and then added them to the cooked lamb mixture and sprinkled on some salt and pepper.
I then removed the dough from the refrigerator and rolled it out on the counter until it was about 1/4 inch thick. I used a bowl with a 5 inch diameter to make circles and then cut them out with a knife. For each circle, I added about 3 tablespoons of the lamb filling to one side of the circle. Your finished pasty will be a semi-circle so close the circle by folding it over and pressing the sides closed with your fingers. Make three slits in the top of the pasty and brush with whisked eggs (use both the whites and the yolks for your glaze). I also brushed the egg onto the side of the circle before I closed it.
I baked these (yields 6) at 400 F for 20 minutes and then at 350 F until they were golden. I made mashed potatoes to accompany the oggies although they can alternatively be served with baked beans. The crust was uber flaky, I made my papa proud, and the lamb was delicious. They are very rich and I couldn't finish mine but as Parolles said in All's Well that End's Well, "I will confess to what I know without constraint: if ye pinch me like a pasty, I can say no more."